How to build an emergency snow trench

Learn how to build a snow trench, which is a winter survival shelter.

Survival Skills

Snow trenches can be built with relative ease with minimal equipment needed. Generally they are quick and will provide a suitable emergency shelter for one to two people. Take note, snow trenches are generally used an actual emergency situations and are not as warm as other DIY winter survival shelter. Again, what they lack in warm they make up for ease of construction.

Winter Survival Shelter | How to build a snow trench

Understanding how to build a snow trench may help save your life in a winter wilderness survival situation.  Here's a step by step guide on how to build a snow trench. 


Step 1:  Start digging a trench about 6 feet long and 3 to 3.4 feet deep.  The width will depend on how many people your trench needs to house.  For one person plan 3 to 4 feet wide. For two people plan on 4 to 5 feet wide. As you dig, make an entrance at only one end.

Step 2:  Lay something sturdy across each end of the trench.  Skies, trekking poles or tree branches should work fine.  If you are using trekking poles you may want to reinforce with tree branches.

Step 3:  Place a tarp or emergency blanket over the trench. Next, anchor the sides and the non-entrance end with anything heavy available. Snow, additional tree branch and rocks are just a few examples.

Step 4:  Understand snow trenches limitations. If there is a heavy snowfall occurring and you build a snow trench, you run the risk of roof collapse from the weight of the snow.